Tuesday 16 December 2008

The role of diaspora in development

"It is important to empower the diaspora, because we are in contact with the grassroots¨ explains Mekka Abdelgabar at a public debate called 'women speak!'. A panel of six diaspora women from (former) war zones shared experiences on the female´s role in peacebuilding processes. Abigail Gonowolo from Liberia passionately described the exemplary role of women in Liberia in advancing towards peace: obstructing those who acted out of bad intent and placing sexual violence on the international agenda resulting in the adoption of resolution 1325. Mekka Abdelgabar described the peacebuilding trainings she gave in Darfur, referring to the Liberian example. Diaspora women spoke from their hearts during this meeting and the audience could feel it. It examplifies a possible role of diaspora in development, a topic that two recent meetings held in Brussels covered at length

The 8th Brussels Briefing took place on Thursday 11 December 2008 and focussed on the issue of migration and development. Two panels addressed the issues of migration and development, focussing specifically on the role of remittances and the involvement of diaspora communities in development policy and practice. In this regards, Cécile Riallant, migration and development advisor at the UNDP, explained the aim to promote the creation of a European diaspora platform. She also explained that a budget of €10-11 million was made available to support initiatives on migrantion and development. Alache Ode (AFFORD, VSO)focused her presentation on the Diaspora contribution to rural and business development, while Leila Rispens-Noel (Oxfam Novib) presented the work of her organisation in working with migrant diasporas. Last but not least, Ken Ndiaye, migrant and entrepreneur from Senegal, rounded up the session with a personal perspective on migrants’ life in Belgium.

Before this Brussels Briefing a Knowledge Fair on Migration and Development took also place in Brussels from 1 to 4 December 2008. The Fair aimed at contributing to the international dialogue on the benefits of migration for development and to create a 'Community of Practice'. This Knowledge Fair, which was initiated by the European Commission and the United Nations (UNDP), featured a 'Knowledge Marketplace' exhibiting various good practices of civil society organisations and governments on migration and development. During the Fair, civil society groups could network, find partners and share their experiences. Participants could also join several workshops and attend presentations on four main themes: remittances, migrant communities, migrant capacities and migrant rights. Atikha, a Philippine partner organisation of ICCO & Kerk in Actie was invited by the UNDP to exhibit its project: a trainers' training on financial literacy and peer counselling for Overseas Filipino Workers, seafarers and their families and the accompanying manual.

Different initiatives are thus taking place at all levels of society to involve diaspora in development practice and policy.

By Marja Rijerse and Stephanie Zwier

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